Classic cars are more than just vehicles. They are time capsules that transport us to a bygone era of style, craftsmanship, and pure driving pleasure. But after decades of use, they aren’t always in the best shape and require some love. The art of classic car restoration is a labor of love that honors the timeless beauty and engineering of vintage automobiles, bringing the past back to life, one bolt at a time.
Some car collectors have an obsession with giving vintage cars a second life. A great example is Jay Leno, one of the most popular car collectors, who owns more than 300 cars and motorcycles worth between $50 million and $100 million. He has personally restored many of these rare and unique cars in his garage. Leno has also hosted a YouTube and television series called Jay Leno’s Garage, which features him showcasing his car collection, discussing the history and mechanics of various vehicles, and restoring cars with the help of experts in the field. Here are 10 classic cars restored by Jay Leno.
10 1963 Jaguar XKE
Leno bought most of his cars through word of mouth, including a 1963 Jaguar XKE barn find he purchased after a tip from a police officer. The abandoned car belonged to a hoarder, had only 17,000 miles on the clock, and hadn’t run in nearly five decades.
The XKE/ E-Type was one of the coolest cars of its time, and Leno owns more than a few that he has restored. This particular XKE was in excellent original condition and survived with almost no damage or evidence of wear.
9 1955 Buick Roadmaster Restomod
When Leno first moved to Los Angeles in 1972, he bought a 1955 Buick Roadmaster for 350 bucks. It is practically his first love and the car he’s owned the longest. It holds great significance in his life; it was the car he met his wife in, dated, first hooked up in, got married, and took to his first and last episodes of The Tonight Show.
Leno heavily restomodded the car in the early 2000s and now calls it Rosebud. The Buick packs a 620 hp 572ci Chevrolet and a 4L85E automatic transmission.
8 1914 Detroit Electric
The 1914 Detroit Electric was an early electric car produced by the Anderson Electric Car Company. Jay Leno has featured a 1914 Detroit Electric Restomod on his YouTube channel, Jay Leno’s Garage. The vintage car received modern components, including a modern electric motor and a battery pack, to make it more practical and reliable for drivability.
Leno’s Detroit Electric has 10 times the original power but retains the original body and style.
7 1907 White Steam Car
Late in 2022, Jay Leno suffered third-degree burns on his hands and the side of his face when his beloved 1907 White Steam Car sprayed him with gas and set him on fire while working on it. This is one of a handful of early automobiles he owns, including a handful of Stanley Steamers and a 1925 Doble E-20.
When new, the 30-hp 1907 White Steam Car was more expensive than a Rolls-Royce, but it proved an instant hit. Leno restored the car to its factory state with 3D-printed parts that are as good as the original.
6 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite
The first-generation Austin Healey Sprite is one charming little sports car, passionately known as the bug eye or the frog eye. It featured a tiny 948cc four-cylinder engine pushing just 43 hp, and while it is neither fast nor quick, it is exciting behind the wheel.
Leno owns a 1959 Austin Healy Sprite and keeps it as close to the original as possible while keeping it drivable. It still sports the original paint and vinyl seats in the cabin.
5 1967 Panhard 24 BT
Jay Leno owns a 1967 Panhard 24 BT, one of the rarest cars in the United States. It is a gorgeous, compact example of French sophistication and style, featuring an 850cc two-cylinder motor with a top speed of over 90 mph. It was a far superior car to the Volkswagen Beetle, with half the cylinders and displacement but twice the horsepower, making it much faster.
Leno’s Panhard 24 BT is an exciting piece of history once owned by television producer Quinn Martin. He polished the exterior and upgraded the interior to leather, and it looks fantastic.
4 1953 Talbot-Lago Grand Sport
Leno looks thrilled about his 1953 Talbot-Lago Grand Sport, and his passion comes through as he talks about its history and background. It is one of his rarest cars, since it’s the only Grand Sport with bumpers.
The 1953 model was the French brand’s swan song, and Leno’s car sat in a garage for over six decades before he bought it in 2020 and restored it to immaculate condition.
3 1956 Chevrolet Nomad Restomod
The Chevrolet Nomad is a classic American station wagon and a popular choice among car enthusiasts for restomodding. Leno “stole” a 1956 Chevy Nomad from his pal Dave Killackey’s yard for a complete restore on the TV show, Overhaulin.
They rebuilt the rotting car, gave it a 572 ci big-block Chevy engine and a complete cosmetic makeover, and it looks stunning with a wine red and white paint job.
2 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
In the ’60s, all of GM’s brands were in stiff competition, trying to outdo each other. Oldsmobile had several inventive cars, including the 1966 Toronado, one of which Jay Leno owns and considers the purest model year. It was a real personality car and gave other luxury coupes like the Ford Thunderbird and Buick Riviera a run for their money, although it wasn’t a major commercial success.
The 1966 Toronado was an original concept with several innovations. Leno restored his example and gave it tweaks like a rear-wheel-drive system.
1 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint
The 1968 Pontiac Firebird Sprint was a performance-oriented variant of the first-generation Firebird. It featured a 250ci engine, posing as a more affordable alternative to the high-performance Firebird models, such as the 400 and the 428.
Leno showed off his inline-six convertible, which proved that the golden era Pontiac wasn’t just about V8s and quarter miles. He bought it in 2019 and put it back on the road after a light restoration and a few modern upgrades for drivability.